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Bernard Lown

Bernard Lown, M.D. was the original developer of the defibrillator and is an internationally known peace activist.

Born in Lithuania, he emigrated at age 13 with his parents to the US, initially to Maine shortly before the outbreak of World War II, and subsequently studied to become a specialist in cardiology.

Development of the defibrillator

Up until the late 1950's, fibrillation of the heart could be treated only by drug therapy. In 1956 American cardiologist Paul Zoll published a paper describing resuscitation of open-heart surgery patients by means of a 110 volt alternating current electric shock (derived from a wall socket) and conducted to the sides of the exposed heart by metal plate "paddles". While being an advance in emergency resuscitation, the technique was later to be shown to be both damaging to the heart muscle and of unpredictable effectiveness in reverting ventricular fibrillation.

In 1959, Lown, aware of the Zoll paper and of the complications resulting from the alternating current method, commenced animal research in an endeavour to define a less traumatic and more effective form of electric shock.

This work resulted in what became known as the "Lown waveform"; a single heavily damped sinusoidal waveform with a half cycle time of approximately 5 milliseconds. The waveform was produced by charging a bank of capacitors to about 1000 volts, then discharging the capacitors through an inductor to deliver the waveform to the heart.

Following the research findings, Lown contacted engineer Barouh Berkovits of the American Optical Company, who produced a clinical prototype defibrillator (often referred to as a "cardioverter") which became the basis for further technological evolution. The original machine, weighing some 60 lb (27 kg), delivered the Lown waveform at energy levels up to 100 joules for exposed heart application, and 200–400 joules for transthoracic application.

Peace activist

In 1960 he was one of the founders of Physicians for Social Responsibility and later the co-founder of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. He also founded two organisations, SATELLIFE and ProCOR, which provide health information and assistance to developing countries.

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War was awarded the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize.

Bernard Lown is currently Professor of Cardiology Emeritus at the Harvard School of Public Health. He and his wife Louise have three children.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Bernard_Lown". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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